Baltic Brown Granite (left) - Cambria Canterbury (right)
We are remodeling our kitchen countertops and are getting answers all over the world about man-made stone, granite, and different countertop materials.
This one chips… $35 more per square foot for that one... this one stains, etc.
We like "Baltic Brown" granite for the countertop OR Cambria quartz "Canterbury".
Bottom line answer…
Which is better, a granite countertop or man-made stone? And generally does granite cost more than quartz or man-made stone?
Historically, people choose granite more often than any man-made stone. Luxury home builders install granite countertops far more than quartz countertops. So there's one answer to give you an idea of which is considered better.
But that's definitely not the whole story!
Granite's dominance has slipped some and there's much more to the equation now.
Both natural stone and man-made materials are excellent choices for kitchen countertops, still, it's important to consider all variables when deciding which is right for you.
Below I compare the cost, durability, maintenance, and colors and boil it down to the most important consideration.
First, let’s quickly define the countertop materials we are comparing so we have a good frame of reference.
What is Granite?
Granite is a naturally occurring rock formed in the earth’s crust from the cooling of lava composed of quartz, feldspar, mica and various other minerals. The exact mix of minerals is what determines the color and pattern of the granite.
Large blocks of granite are extracted from quarries and cut into slabs that are then used to make bathroom and kitchen countertops.
So, manufacturing is required to produce granite countertops but the material itself is “natural" vs. man-made materials used to make other types of countertops.
Types of Man-Made Stone
Man-made countertops come in several varieties, but not all types of man-made countertops are considered man-made “stone", though. Laminate, Corian, cultured marble, recycled glass, porcelain, concrete, metal, and paper countertops are all man-made.
Is a quartz countertop man-made? Yes. And when speaking of man-made “stone" we mean specifically “quartz countertops" also known as “engineered stone".
Not a fake granite countertop. It's simply intended to look and perform similarly to its natural counterpart - granite.
Corian and other solid surface countertops can sort of be included as a man-made “stone" too since stone aggregate is a major component. But the percentage of stone in the mix is much less and solid-surface doesn’t have the look, feel, or performance similar to granite that quartz does.
What are the different types of quartz countertops?
Again, quartz is the one main type of man-made stone countertop. However, many “brands" make quartz countertops.
Here’s a list of engineered stone countertop brands:
Zodiac (now called Corian Quartz)
That’s not all, but the main ones. The top 4 dominate the market.
The composition of a quartz countertop is basically the same no matter which brand you buy.
All are 93% quartz and 7% binding resins and pigments following the original patented formula from the Brenton Company.
The different types of quartz countertops come down to the different colors, patterns, and finishes each brand develops. The quartz countertop material itself is the same across all brands.
When comparing granite vs. quartz countertops... this encompasses all brands as one.
Cost of Granite Countertops vs. Man-Made Stone
Granite prices span a wider range. So many different varieties and it's natural and unique. Supply and demand. Some granite colors are plentiful - others not. Some popular - others not, so prices follow accordingly.
Granite Countertop Costs
Installed costs for granite can run from $35 up to $200 per sq. ft., but the majority are in the $50-$80 range.
The average granite countertop cost is $45 - $65 / sq. ft.
Quality of everything can vary too. That's why you'll see signs for $25 sq ft. granite... avoid these.
Costs of Man-Made Stone
In general, quartz countertops costs are in the same range as granite, but the average cost of quartz tends to run a bit higher.
Manufactured stone countertops like Cambria and other quartz surfaces (Silestone, Caesarstone, Zodiac) run about $45 to $120.
The average quartz countertop costs $60-$80 / sq. ft.
"Why is that so?", you may ask when they can make as much or as little as demand dictates.
Consider that quartz and other man-made countertop manufacturers are wanting to lure customers away from granite by trying to position themselves as equal or superior to granite in every way.
Man-made stone has many of the same costs as granite such as transporting slabs and storage at local warehouses. Granite must be quarried, but quartz must be manufactured. Either way carries significant costs.
The final countertop fabrication is basically the same cost-wise.
Still, some particular colors and patterns of quartz countertops will be more or less expensive just like granite.
How Installation Specifics Affect Prices
Installation variables like edge style, sink, and cooktop cutouts, and slab thickness, will contribute to overall costs with both materials resulting in an average "range" of prices.
You may get a big difference in price either way depending on the particular colors of granite and man-made stone you are comparing... granite more than quartz.... or quartz more than the granite.
You must always compare apples to apples when getting quotes meaning all variables other than the countertop material itself must be the same.
Quartz vs. Granite Cleaning and Maintenance
A lot of effort goes into making it seem like there's a huge difference between granite and quartz cleaning, but really it's small details.
Sealing & Staining
Man-made quartz doesn't need sealing and is very stain-resistant. But it can be discolored by some chemicals.
What isn’t well-known is that many granite countertops (darker colors) are also stain-resistant and don't need sealing either.
The sealing and stain comparison is not a big deal... pros & cons of both countertop materials.
Most (but not all) granites need sealing
Granite can stain but sealing will largely prevent this
Some granites do not need sealing and are naturally stain-resistant
Quartz countertops do not need sealing
Foods and drinks do not stain quartz easily but sometimes can
Some chemicals and cleaners will discolor quartz but not granite
So you see, there no clear advantage unless you compare a granite that is very porous and stains easy. There aren't many like this.
Cleaning Granite & Quartz
The methods for general quartz and granite cleaning are essentially the same. For quick cleanups use hot water and a sponge. Avoid soap as this forms a film.
Using a quality stone cleaner for messes and end-of-day cleaning is best for both granite and/or quartz countertops.
Heat, Scratches & Repair
Granite takes heat better than man-made stone. Quartz can take hot pans for a short period, but the resins used in engineered stone countertops can be damaged.
Neither surface will scratch or etch from acids. Both can pit or chip, though.
Quartz fades in the sun.
The one kicker… Repair... granite can almost always be repaired, stains removed, etc., while man-made stone discoloration is often permanent... slight edge to granite.
Style: Man-Made Stone vs. Granite Colors
For my tastes and many in the design world, quartz patterns tend to look uniform and man-made. Man-made stone doesn't possess the allure and unique colors, depth, textures or patterns of granite.
But in recent years, most quartz countertop makers have introduced new colors and patterns that are a leap beyond their original stylings. Many are truly gorgeous and not just the same old speckled patterns.
Of course, color preference is a matter of personal taste, so no real "winner" in this category.
Bottom Line... Which is Best?
Differences, pros, and cons do exist, but none is significant enough to definitively elevate one material over the other.
I know the desire is to crown a clear winner but...
Practically speaking, it's an even match.
For sure both man-made stone and granite are at the top of the list of all countertop materials. Both make excellent kitchen countertops.
Man-made stone is slightly less durable/repairable than granite, so I always lean toward granite.
However, no surface is perfect and potential problems can occur with either material. Or you could go a lifetime without any issue.
The best choice boils down to your personal color preference and price. And that's a win for you.
If you find that perfect granite color, then great... go for it.
But, if a quartz color catches your eye, then I wouldn't talk you out of it. A quartz countertop will serve you just as well.
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